By: Joe Kowalski
Owner/CEO Empowered Community Services
Most everyone can remember the panic, sudden jolt, and jarring pain of hitting the ground after their friend jumped off the teeter totter when we were kids.
Or that time when you were in a hurry to get home with the groceries. You’re late, it’s raining, and instead of making three trips into the house with the groceries in the rain, you try to carry all 37 bags at one time, only to slip on the pavement sending a week’s worth of groceries all over the garage floor.
What about this one? You are up against a deadline at work, going on 4 hours of sleep and you get a call at 5:30p from your spouse demanding “where are you?” With everything going on, you forgot to update your calendar with the kids’ recital that you are now going to miss.
These lessons on gravity, imbalance, and regret are hard to forget. Unbalanced objects, whether they be playground equipment, people, or the expectations of others, will always fall.
My wife and I have four children (3 high schoolers still at home,) a new grandson, 3 dogs, and I run my own small business. The demands on my time are many and balance becomes more and more difficult to maintain. By my own admission, I have a lot of work to do when it comes to balance in my life, but the following are a few pieces of advice I’ve come to cherish on this exceedingly difficult subject.
You’ve Got to Feed the Monkey! To me, this means looking at the big picture and understanding what you want to be remembered for. Do you want to be remembered for being an incredible fun-loving uncle, a dad that never misses a soccer game, a legend at sports trivia, or making a ton of money? Make a list, define what you want your legacy to be. This is your monkey. Invest time and resources into feeding your legacy. Whatever you want your legacy to be- if your days are spent building towards it, you will find joy and balance.
You Can’t Handle the Truth! I find myself getting unbalanced when, despite my best intentions, I’m not honest with myself about what I can actually get done. If I have a jam-packed schedule and someone makes a request that doesn’t fit firmly in one of my priorities or my schedule, it is best to just say no. If you don’t want to say no, say not right now. Whether it's your kids, spouse, or boss, continually saying yes just to make everyone happy will quickly put you off balance.
Do some honest negotiating. For example: “If I change my schedule to pick up the kids on Thursday, I may have to work late on Friday, which puts our dinner plans with your parents in jeopardy.” Talk through the alternatives and settle on what’s most important before simply adding more to your plate or flatly saying no with good reason.
You Need to Unplug Man. The effects of technology on attention, anxiety levels, focus, and ability to rest are well documented. Yet so many of us ignore these facts and continue to let notifications, requests, social media, and phone calls interrupt our lives. Everyone and everything that is important to you deserves uninterrupted time: listening your wife’s day, talking your daughter through her first break up, a co-worker or employee sharing difficulties at home, or trying to take a nap on a Sunday afternoon. We allow ourselves to be pulled away from these important moments by technology. Do a self-assessment about your technology use. Do you have specific times or days of the week, when your phone is put away? Are you modeling good behavior to your employees and coworkers by not sending emails at 3am? Do you have all your notifications except those most important to you silenced? Are phones put away at family dinners and church? For me, setting boundaries like these, with my technology has improved my focus and intentionality.
Unfortunately, balance is the kind of thing that as soon as you think you have it, someone jumps off the other side of the teeter totter. As a father, new grandfather, husband, and employer I am constantly searching for balance, which is a good thing! Balance is not something to be achieved, but something to continually seek.
Lavern & Ronda Nissley are co-directors of Encompass. Married since 1978, both enjoy coffee, riding their tandem bicycle and working together to build strong relationships.